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Andy Stanley - Winning

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Today, I want to talk about winning. Yeah, okay, so today I wanna talk about winning. Thank you, because, because and here's the bottom line, so you might wanna write this down, or thumb this down, or because this is kind of the bottom line in case you have to leave earlier, or you lose power at home, because the bottom line is simply this, I wanna talk about winning because winning is better than not winning. Winning is better, thank you, than not winning. And I know this for a fact because I have been a not winner, okay?

Being a not winner started for me in the eighth grade when I tried out for eighth grade basketball, at Tucker High School, and I got cut at the last night, but there were so many, I think the whole, everybody in the eighth grade went out for eighth grade basketball, boys basketball. And at Tucker High School, at the time, high school was eighth through 12th grade, not ninth through 12th grade. I don't know why they did it that way. We didn't have middle school. Anyway, I got cut from the team, and it was so traumatic for me, I've told some of you this story, I honestly, I'm not exaggerating, I never tried out for anything again for the rest of my life to this very day. I have never ever entered any kind of competitive thing that I thought I could get cut from, it was so traumatic.

Now I've assumed all these years that I was just a coward. And then along came the Enneagram. Any Enneagram fans in the house? You got some, yeah, yeah, yeah, all the eights raised their hands and the seven, anyway. So what I discovered was I'm not a coward. I'm a five on the Enneagram and fives on the Enneagrams, we don't like to do anything that we're not sure we can succeed at. So God made me this way. So anyway, it helped my self-esteem to know I'm not a coward. This is just the way I'm wired. I don't like to do anything I can't succeed at. I was reminded of this some years later after I was married and we would go on vacation with Sandra's family and they would always want to play a day of golf, like the whole family goes and plays golf, all the guys, of course. Of course I didn't play golf.

In fact, in my whole life, up to this day, I have played five rounds of golf, not like in a weekend, like in a lifetime, okay? So you can imagine how good I wasn't and so I would always say, No, you guys go ahead. I'll just stay here and build sand castles with the kids and the girls. I just, I don't want to go. So finally I'm thinking, Okay, this is ridiculous. So I went and it was terrible. The next summer, I went, it was terrible. So the third summer and the last summer, I'm like, I really don't want to do this. I just feel horrible and so my father-in-law, I think to help me, said, Hey, why don't we all go to the driving range the night before we have our family golf tournament? Like that's gonna help me.

So we all go to the driving range and it's dark. We got there late. It's night, and of course, it's kinda lit up. And so honestly and for those of who play golf, forgive me, I don't even know how to say this correctly. I was hitting grounders. Is that a golf term? Okay, I was hitting ground, I know it's a baseball, I was hitting grounders. You know what I mean by a grounder, like, they were just staying on the ground, okay. I was hitting grounders with the golf club, the golf bat, anyway, and there was a young lady in front of me and she was hitting her golf balls into outer space. They were disappearing into the dark, into the night sky and I think they were, they're like circling the earth. I mean, it was amazing.

So when she finished her bucket of balls, it's kinda weird, I know, I said, Excuse me, can I ask you a question? She turned around. I said, How old are you? I said, in fact, I said I know this is creepy. How old are you? She said, I'm 14. So I stepped out of the batter's box with my golf club and I went down and found my father-in-law who was far away and put my club in his bag and I said, I'm gonna go sit in the car. You guys take whatever time you want but I can't do this anymore. And that was the end of golf for me. And as I was sitting in the car, I knew in an hour or 30 minutes whenever, they're all gonna come and they'll be like, Are you okay? Do you feel okay? So I formulated a statement and I really, I made this up and this is what I told them and I have used this every day every time golf comes up.

This is the statement I give and some of you may want to use this. I'm gonna put it on the screen. So this is what I said when they came back and said, Is everything okay? Here's what I said. If I want to feel bad about myself, there are less expensive and less time-consuming ways to do so. I promise, I'm not making this up. This is what I said and whenever golf comes up 'cause I get invited all the time to go to great places. I'm like, you know what, if I wanted to feel bad about myself, because I'm a five. I don't want to fail so I don't want to try something I'm gonna fail at. So the point of all that is simply this.

Today I want to talk about winning but personally I'm not really much of a competitor. I'm not competitive. And maybe you aren't either but I just wanted you to know that you're not the only one in the room so I don't lose you on this topic. Others of you are so competitive that you have lost respect for me because you're so competitive. It's like, You are such a loser. I mean, what? Because you're, come on, you're so competitive when you were a child, you were the one that wanted to finish all your food the fastest and your parents were like, Slow down. It's like, no. Everything in your life has been a race. Everything's a race. Everything's competitive. You always have to win because in my mind, I hear a little voice. My little voice says this, Hey, you can't win, so why try?

That's what I hear. What you hear is, Winning is everything, try anything. Winning is everything, try anything. So you rise to the challenge. You're willing to do new stuff. It's amazing. You scare me a little bit but it's amazing. And I understand this. I have three kids and all three of my kids, they're not like me. They try everything. My sons are so competitive and I wish I was more like that. But the point is, regardless of where you are on the spectrum, like me, hey, if I can't win, why try. Or hey, I'll try anything once and I'll compete because it's just, you just love the game and you are in the habit of making a game out of everything. Regardless, winning is important because winning is better than not winning, especially in the arena that matters most. And the arena that matters most, of course, is your life. Which leads me to a question that I want to leave you with today that I hope you'll wrestle with a little bit.

For some of you, and I can attest to this because this is true for me. This could actually be a life-changing question. I'm not exaggerating. You'll see in just a minute. This is a question that I hope you'll wrestle with. This is a question that perhaps I hope you'll wrestle with for the rest of the life. For those of you who are parents, I hope that at some point you could introduce this into your conversation with your kids. Because if you do not answer this for yourself, you will spend too much of your life, to use a phrase that King Solomon would use in the Book of Ecclesiastes, you will spend much of your life chasing the wind. Instead of winning, you'll spend your life chasing the wind.

This is a question that most people never ask. Consequently it's a question that most people never answer. And if you don't answer it, if you don't answer it, in some arena of your life, maybe not your whole life but in some arena of life, life'll begin to feel like a race that you feel the pressure to finish but you're not sure where the course is and the course doesn't seem to be laid out very well and everybody else seems to be running with purpose and you're just running but you don't know how to run with purpose because you're just not sure where the race ends but you feel the pressure to finish it. Life begins to feel like a game that you feel pressure to win but you don't know the rules. And everybody else seems to know the rules and they seem to feel like they're winning and you feel the pressure to play this game. But you're just not sure what the rules are.

And here's the question I want to introduce and ask you to think about. What's the win? What's the win? It's difficult in any arena of life to know that you're winning if you've never identified the win. Well, what's the win relationally? If you're in a relationship, what's the win for that relationship? You're in a serious relationship, you're dating somebody, maybe you're close to being engaged, maybe you're engaged, maybe you're a newlywed, been married for a while, but what's the win? I mean, you're in love. I mean, that's great but you didn't have much control over that, right? You just fell into that but now what's the win?

Financially, I mean, all of us think about money and we think about money all the time everyday. We're trying to make as much as we can and save some but what's the win? If you're married, what's the win for your marriage? I'll tell you mine in just a few minutes. What's the win for your family if you have kids? What's your win professionally? You see, depending on how you're wired, some of you men and women, generally men more than women but it can anybody, if you don't know what the win is professionally, did you know it could be, you'd be like somebody who's running a race and you run past the finish line and you just keep running and you're exhausted and everybody's like, What's up with you and what's going on and why are you so driven and why can't you relax and why can't you enjoy life and you'll just feel like, no, I gotta keep running.

And you feel that to some extent because you never identified the win. In the areas of life, in the areas of life that matter most, most people never define the win. And here's the real tragedy and this is where some of you are right now and I'm not being critical. This is why you're here. This is you're listening. This is maybe why you're watching. If you don't define the win for yourself, you'll end up adopting somebody else's. You will date like everybody else dates. You will spend your money like everybody else spends their money. You will spend your time like everybody else spends their time. You will parent either like you were parented or in reaction to how you were parented or you'll simply take your parenting cues from everybody else around you. You'll work like everybody else.

You will settle for what my friend Adam Johnson calls not goals. Adam Johnson's our lead pastor up at Browns Bridge and he talks about living for too long with not goals. You know what a not goal is? A not goal is well, I'm not gonna be like him. I'm not gonna be like her. I'm not gonna be like my dad. I'm not gonna be like my mom. I'm not gonna parent like they parented me. I'm not gonna do, I'm not, I'm not and you're gonna set not goals and not goals are not enough because not goals are not wins. And you will be inclined and we've all been there, you'll be inclined to blame and compare yourself through life especially when you begin to feel like and you may not use this term but you have some term that parallels it. When you begin to feel like in any arena of life you're not winning, you'll blame and you'll compare and the problem may be you never decided what a win was to begin with.

So, what's the win? What's the win? If you don't know what the win is, it's hard to tell if you're winning. And let me ask it this way. What's the win in this season because in every season of life, there are different wins. I've shared this with some of you before, when I was in my late 20s, I read a book that challenged me to think deeply about my character, to think deeply about who I was and I wasn't thinking in terms so much of a win, I wasn't using that word but it's exactly what it challenged me to do. It challenged me to think about Andy, what is the win for you as it relates to who you are, the person that you want to become? And so I went through a little exercise and I came up with seven words and I wrote down these seven words and I decided I want these seven words to define me. If I get to the end of my life and people stand up at my funeral to talk about me and they describe me as any one of these seven words, that will be a win, that will be a finish line. I will have lived my life in such a way that I was the person that I always wanted to become. So I wrote down seven words.

Now you think, well, that's kinda silly. I don't want to do that. You don't have to do that but let me just say something real quick before I move on. Did you know that when you people think about you words come to mind? Did you know that when your brother-in-law or your brother, your sister, your sister-in-law, your husband, your wife, your kids, your grandkids, did you know that when you come to mind, words come to mind? And the reason you know this is because when you think of other people, words come to mind. He's so, she's such a, they're so, he always, she. When you come to mind, words come to mind. Have you ever given any thought to what you want those words to be? Wouldn't that be a win to decide ahead of time and to order your life and to order your conduct and to order your character in such a way that you define the win for who you are and who people perceive you to be? If you're a newlywed or you've been into marriage maybe two or three years, what's the win?

Now I'm gonna share what Sandra and I's marriage win is and I don't want you to snicker, okay, because we came up with this early into marriage, all right, I just want to let you know. So it's a little idealistic. It's a little corny so the proper response is not to laugh. The proper response is to go, "aw". In fact, let's just practice, ready? Okay, that was girls, okay, guys too, ready? Everybody's gonna be like, "aw". Yeah that's so precious, okay. So we were, we hadn't been married long but three days ago, I was talking to Sandra and I said, Hey, I'm gonna share this corny little statement that we've used all these years. Is it okay? And we both kinda laughed. But you know what, 30 years in, we've been married 30 years, it's still the thing, it's still the win for us. And I'm not suggesting you adopt it. I'm just suggesting if you're married, what's the win? The win isn't well, we never got divorced.

Wow, I mean, in our culture, that's kind of a win, right? Right, there's, but I mean, we just gutted it out. I hate to see you're coming but by god, that's not the win, right? Nobody is standing at the altar and say, anyway, we kinda do, till death do us part. That's such an awful thing. Till death do us part. It's like, wow, looking forward to that, so anyway. So here's our statement, okay? It's corny, we were young, foolish, hey, we still talk on these terms. Our win, we decided was to always want to be where the other person is. Thank you, aw shucks. I know, isn't that great? Yeah, we just decided, you know what, I mean, this isn't complicated. We didn't have a verse or a scripture or something from Psalms, nothing embroidered. It was just, hey, you know what, if at every season of our life, I want to be where you are and you want to be where I am, I, that's a win.

So what would happen, is from time to time, I would ask, this is how I would ask Sandra how we were doing with. I would say, Hey, I know this is corny. Okay, this is just us. You don't have to mimic this. I would say, Hey, do you still like it when you hear my car pull in the driveway at the end of the day? Then we had a garage. Then I would say, Hey, do you like it when you, still like it when you hear the garage door opening? And sometimes she would say to me, you know what, I still love it when I hear the garage door opening. And that was her way of saying, you know what, I still like being with you. And then she would ask me this, she would say, Hey Andy, do you still like being at home more than you like being at work? Do you like being at home? Do you still like being at home more than you like being at work? So for us, we decided the win wasn't money, the win wasn't, the win was just, if 10 years in, 20 years in, 30 years in, I still want to be where you are and you still wanna be where I am, I mean, you may come up with a better one. That's a pretty good one. The point is you need one because in marriage it's so complicated, it's so emotional, it's so busy, right? Hey, and for those of you who are parents, what's your win for parenting?

Let me tell me what it shouldn't be and again, I'm kind of sticking my nose in your business. If you're, and most parents don't ever write anything down. I mean, once you're a parent, who has time to write anything down, right? You can't find anything. So the win for parenting for a lot of parents by default because they don't think about it is perfectly behaved kids. I just want my kids to behave. I just want my kids to behave. Now they've never, you don't write that down because when you write it down, it seems so shallow. But in terms of how you spend your time with your kids and what you say to your kids, if you're not careful, you will parent toward behavior modification. You will parent toward behavior control. And when they get out of control, you're just gonna put 'em in timeout because that's the easiest thing to do.

We never ever use timeout as a discipline in our family. That's a subject for another day. But because we had a different goal. And the goal for parenting, my opinion, shouldn't just be perfectly educated kids. They're perfectly behaved and they're perfectly educated and then we perfectly didn't see 'em very much after that 'cause they didn't want to come back to our perfect home. Or I don't know how that works so. So perfectly educated kids, I mean, we want our kids to be educated, we want them to behave. But just if you would just spend some time as parents thinking, okay, so when they're gone and we're looking back on this whole thing, what's the win? Because you are, whether you know it or not, parents, you are parenting in a direction. You are.

So Sandra and I, we came up with a statement. I know again, you don't have to adopt ours. Andrew, our oldest, was in a car seat. That's how young he was. We were on our way to family vacation where I was deciding whether or not to play golf. Yes, the same vacation. And Andrew's in the back seat and we're talking about, should we, what are doing, I don't what we're doing. So we talked and talked and I love the way her family acted with each other. Her family was very family-centered. They were five of 'em, three kids and the parents and they loved to be together. And I loved the fact that they loved to be together. When four of them were together, they would always call the fifth one and make fun of them for not being there. Hey, sorry you're not here. You're missing out on a meal. You're missing out on that. I love that. My family, not so much. We weren't that way. I loved it.

So here's the statement that we came with. This was our goal for parenting. Again, I don't have a Bible verse. This was just what we felt like the win was as parents. We wanted children who want to be with one another and with us when they no longer have to be. We wanted our kids when they were older to want to be with each other and with us when they were old enough that they didn't have to be. And we parented toward this north star. And I'm telling you, once you decide what the win is, whatever the win is, you will change your parenting style and you will change the way you discipline and the way you talk when you realize what are we trying to get to. This was an extraordinarily important part of our life and our parenting.

Now our kids are in their 20s and they don't have to do anything we tell 'em to do. And they love to be together. And we think they still love to be with us, at least they're faking it if they're not. Now here's the deal. Regardless of where you are on a faith journey, this isn't really even about a faith journey. We'll get to that in just a minute. Regardless of where you are on a faith journey or whether or not you're even on a faith journey, you need to spend some time identifying the win. What's the win? It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be right. It might even change. Just give some thought to it because in the arenas of life that matter most, you want to win because winning is better than not winning.

And if you don't know what you're aiming for, right, you've heard it, you'll hit it every time. You don't want to just go and draw a target on the barn because you shot first and then drew the target later, right? You don't want to do that. You, and then we'll talk about in just a minute how important this is as it relates to the different seasons of life. So what I want to do with the rest of our time is I want to show you a win statement. It's not really called that. I just kinda made that up. A win statement from the New Testament by a gentleman who has influenced all of our lives either directly or indirectly. Certainly indirectly in that we don't know him but in terms of his literature, he really did shape all of our lives because of his words and because of his letters and of course I'm talking specifically about, well he showed up in history as Saul of Tarsus and then he became a Jesus follower, started using his Roman name and so we know him as Paul or the Apostle Paul.

And the Apostle Paul's win, he's gonna give us his statement in 1 Corinthians. His win and maybe you can relate to this and this should be encouraging, his win, what he decided the win was for his life was actually a response to a failure. It was actually a response to a loss in his life because he steps into history as someone who has decided to put out of business a Nazarene sect or a Nazarene cult that sort of revolved around this Nazarene rabbi named Jesus. He decided I'm gonna put that out of business because it's disturbing the world order between the Jews and the Romans and we can't let that happen so we gotta put this thing out of business.

So he started rounding up all the Christians and having them arrested. He had some of them tortured, tried to get many of them to abandon this Nazarene sect and go back to 1st century Judaism. People died under his leadership as a result of him going too far. People were maimed and so he had a track record of being very violent but he thought he was serving God. He thought he was doing the right thing. And then he meets the resurrected Jesus. Uh oh and he realizes oh no, I thought I was doing something for God. I was actually working against God. And then now he's got all of that in his past and he feels so guilty and he feels so terrible and for the rest of his life, he's gonna run into people. It's like, oh yeah, I, Saul of Tar, yeah yeah yeah, did you know, I, you had my brother arrested and he's not been able to walk since. I know someone whose daughter-in-law you arrested and we haven't seen her since. The rest of his life, he would run into people whose families he destroyed because of his zealousness to do something for God even though he was misinformed.

So he steps into history as that person. In fact, here's how he says it because he became an apostle, a follower of Jesus. But here's his words. He said, For I am the least of the apostles, talking about Andrew and Matthew and John and all the guys that followed Jesus. He says, I'm the least of these guys. I don't even deserve to be called an apostle. Why, Paul? Because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I love this little phrase, I am what I am. In other words, I can't change the past. I can't go back and undo what I've done. I am who I am with all that baggage and with that stuff. I am what I am and God's grace to me was not without effect. In other words, God did not waste His time coming after me. God did not waste His time revealing Himself to me. God did not waste His time. Now I worked harder than all the rest of them. In other words, you know Matthew and you know John and James and Bartholomew, I mean, those guys are great but I'm outworking all of them and I feel like I need to outwork all of 'em because of what I did in the past. And sure enough, the letters that he wrote to the churches around the Mediterranean Rim, they shaped and continue to shape Western civilization. It's amazing. He's the one that introduced Jesus to the non-Jewish world. And in 1 Corinthians, he explains what the win for his life is.

Now let me, I'm gonna show it to you but here's my point. My point is not that you would adopt or adapt his win. My point is showing you his win is what he says afterwards because what he says afterwards gives us an insight into what we have to do if we want to win in the arenas of life that matter most. So here's his win statement followed by the motivation or his approach afterwards. So here's what he says. I'll hit this quick. He says, Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. So Paul, what's your win? He would say, My win is to win people. I want to convince Jewish people that Jesus is their Messiah and I want to convince Gentile people that God has done something in the world on their behalf and through the person of Jesus.

He says, so here's what I did. To the Jews, I became like a Jew to win the Jews. To which we would say, what do you became like a Jew? You are a Jew. Paul would say, oh no, let me tell you what I mean. I mean, when I'm with Jewish people, I'm like a better Jew than any of 'em. Like I amp up the Jewishness. Like whatever makes them Jewish, I do it more. I out-Jew all the Jewish people. Why? He said, because I want to influence them. I want them to recognize, wow, you're like a great Jewish person. I mean, I thought I was doing well. You're doing better than me. And he says, because I want influence with these people. I want to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law though I myself am not under the law, talking about the Jewish law, so as to win those under the law. Because some Gentiles had become, had sort of converted. They didn't use the term convert but had basically converted to Judaism. To those not having the law, like us Gentiles, I became one, I became like one not having the law, though I am not free from God's law but I am under Christ's law.

Come back to that in a second. In this top statement, here's what he's saying. When I'm with the Gentiles, I eat like a Gentile. I drink like a Gentile. I dress like a Gentile. I walk like an Egyptian, talk like a, and then wherever I am, I can get along with anybody. I can become whatever I need to become. Why? Well, because I have a north star. I have a win that defines my life. I want everyone to know what God has done in the world by sending Jesus. And then I love this phrase. Though I am free from, I'm not free from God's law, talking about the Sinai Code, but I'm under Christ's law. Now this is a really important distinction we won't spend a lot of time on but do you know what Christ's law is?

Now when the Apostle Paul talks about Christ's law, he's talking about the single command that Jesus gave on the night of His last Passover when He said, I'm gonna give you a new command and here it is. You don't need 10, you just need one. As I've loved you, so you're to love one another. That was Christ's single law. Not the Ten Commandments. The one commandment. And Paul said, I am under that command. That's why he gave up violence as a means to an end to further his cause. He says, I'm under Christ's law so as to win those not having the law. Then he finishes up. To the weak I have became weak to win the weak. I became all things to all people. Why? So that by all possible means. I mean, this guy was focused, wasn't he? By all possible means which means, I thought it through. I organized my life. I ordered my life. I organized my life, my time, my resources. I ordered and organized my life so that by all possible means, I might save some. His win was to win people. But what comes next is for you and for me.

What comes next is for you whether you're a Christ follower or not and what comes next is really for all of us because the Apostle Paul knew what we know intuitively. It is not enough to wish. It's not enough to want. It's not enough to desire. And so he now dips into this sports metaphor that the people in his context understood and that we understand to some extent. He goes right into this after saying, this is the win. That to win people, I'll do anything it takes to win people. And then he goes right into this next topic. It looks like he changes the subject. He says, Do you not know, he'd ask these questions all the time. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize? To which we're like, yes. Paul, thank you, we know how a race works. Everybody lines up, everybody runs, one person finishes first and that person gets the prize.

So yes, so, well, why are you saying that? And let me tell you why he's saying it and then I'll show you how he says it. Here's the point he's about to make. This is so powerful. Imagine if we lived this way. He said in an athletic competition, the competition is obvious. In an athletic competition, the competition is obvious. In a race, they are lined up right besides you. You always know how you're doing in relationship to the competition. On the football field, they are lined up right in front of you. You always know how you're doing against the competition. And with a cheerleading squad, you know where you stand because they just performed and now you have to perform. There's somebody ahead of you, there's somebody behind you but you know where you stand with the competition. You can see your competition. But when it comes to winning in life, when it comes to winning in your marriage, when it comes to winning with your kids, when it comes to winning financially or dating or whatever, it's hard to tell, isn't it? It's just not as obvious.

Consequently, we lack urgency. There's no scoreboard. There are no fans. There's no clock. It's hard to tell how we're doing. So listen to what he says to us next. He says, you know in a race, you know who your competition is, and you know everybody's competing but only one person gets across the finish line, and the faster the people around you go, the faster you go. And there's just so much energy because so much is at stake and you know exactly where you are because you know who the competition is. You know what that's like? And we're like, yeah, we know what that's like. And then he says to us, ready for this? This is so great. He says, Hey, run in such a way as to get the prize. Implication.

Live your life with the same urgency, with the same focus, with the same order that you would bring to a race or a competition to where there was a clock, where there were fans, where you knew who the competition was and you knew how you were doing against the competition. Live in such a way that you win. Pay the price you have to pay to make sure you're prepared to win, right? Because in an athletic competition, there's always a price to pay to win, right? And in the arenas of life that matter most to you, I don't even know you but we know this about each other, right? The person on your left and your right, isn't this true of us? In the areas that matter most, to win, there is a price to be paid. The same is true in every single arena of life that matters to us. Everyone who competes in the game, he said, he goes on. Everyone who competes in the games, and he's talking about these games that took place right outside of Corinth. It was a famous place that for over 700 years, they had sort of these miniature Olympic games. Everybody knew what he was talking about.

He said, Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. Why? Because they want to win. Everybody who wants to win knows there's a sacrifice. Everybody who wants to win knows there has to be focus. Everybody who wants to win knows you have to say no to some things in order to say yes to prepare yourself to win. They do it, he said of these people that run in these races and that box and fight. They were very violent games, by the way. He said the people who compete, they do it to get a crown that will not last. And what they were actually getting, this is kind of interesting, is they got, you may know this, they got, if you won a race or you won one of these boxing competitions or a chariot race, you actually got a crown of leaves. Woo hoo. Laurel leaves, you got laurel leaves. You've heard the phrase, resting on your laurels, she's resting on her laurels. That means they're kind of using their past accomplishments or sort of sitting back on their past accomplishments.

That this is where that phrase came from. You got a laurel crown of leaves. And what would happen? Well, it would look great for the day, and for a couple days and three days, but eventually it got brittle and it would crack and it would just go away. And Paul says, think. Think about the hard work a runner puts in. Think about the sacrifice a boxer puts in. Think about all the money spent to train horses. Think about all the effort that goes in to win a laurel crown that's not even gonna last. And then he speaks to those of you who are Jesus followers and he speaks to me as a Jesus follower. He says, come on, think about the competition you're in. Think about what's at stake. But we, he includes us. But we, in terms of competing and winning in life, he says, we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

And therefore, he says, this is so powerful. He says, look up here. He says because of what's at stake, because I don't want to get to the end of my life and wonder if I won, because I don't want to get to the end of my life and wonder how did I do. He says, even though I can't see necessarily my competition. They're not lined up beside me or in front of me or waiting in line behind me, I run as if I can see them. He says, therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly. It is easy in our culture to run, to parent, to spend money, to date and to do relationships and finances and our professional lives aimlessly. If you don't have a win, if you haven't defined the win, you can spend an entire season or two of your life aimlessly. Paul says, I'm not doing that because I know what I want, I know what I'm about and I'm gonna do whatever it takes to get there. He says, I do not run like someone running aimlessly. I do not fight like a boxer, just beating the air. He says, No, I strike a blow to my body and I make it my slave.

Why, Paul? Paul would say, well, of course I'm gonna do this because I know what I'm about. I have defined, I've identified the win for my life and I'm gonna order my life, my time and discipline myself to make sure at the end of the day even though I have to say no to me to get there, I want to get there and it's worth saying no to me in order to get there. Now isn't that true for you in the areas of life that matter most? I know it is because many of you have already achieved extraordinary things. You already know what it means to focus, you already know what it means to say no to you to accomplish what you've already accomplished. But in the areas of life that matter most, have you defined the win? In his case, this is what he feared. I don't know what you fear. Here's what he feared. He said, I have to do this so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

So here's his bottom line, then I want to talk about us for a minute. His bottom line is simply this. I am going to prepare and compete as if my competition was lined up beside me or standing in front of me. I'm gonna live my life with the same focus and the same energy as if I could actually see my competition because I don't want to get to the end of my life and be disqualified because I wasn't prepared to go the distance and I wasn't prepared to win. I think he would say to us what to some extent we already know. You don't win by wishing. You don't win by hoping. You don't even win by just praying. You win by preparing to win. You win by preparing to win. You win by saying no to you so that you can win. But you'll never say no to you with the urgency you must say no to you until you have identified the win. So, come on, what's the win? Relationally, financially, academically, professionally, what's the win? Are you preparing to win?

Singles, let me just say something to you if you're single or maybe even if you're single again. Hey, if the win for you is marriage, then you can't date like most people date. If you want a marriage that's unlike most marriages, then you can't date like most people date. This is why every once and while I say to the singles and college students in our organization, I say, look, you need to take this one year off challenge. You need to step off the playing field for a year. You need to put yourself in the penalty box for a year. You need to go to the locker room for a year. You need to get out of this dating game for a dating year so you can get your head clear.

So you can get your mind cleared, your heart cleared, your conscience clear. So you can decide, okay, when I step back on that playing field with all that crazy competition, what is the win for me? And the win isn't just a date and the win isn't just an experience. The win is bigger than that. What is the win? Before I decide I'm gonna play, I'm gonna decide what the win is. And I'm telling you, when you take that challenge and you take it seriously and you do the difficult work, and you decide I'm not just gonna date aimlessly, I'm not just gonna be swinging my hands or my hips in the air, right? I'm gonna have a purpose, I'm gonna have a goal for this, right? Just thought I'd work that in, okay? Because I have grander plans for my life and my future and I don't want my history, my dating history to just repeat itself.

So that's why I make that challenge. Why? Because if you don't know what the win is, you don't know what you're dating toward. For parents, let me just tell you, okay. I'm on the other side of maybe where some of you are. You're gonna have to say no to some things to achieve your parenting goal once you decide what it is. Once you know what the win is, in fact, Sandra and I said this a thousand times. Here's what we would say. No for now but not forever. No for now but not forever. No for now but not forever. There are some things that we will do later that we are not going to do now because of what we think the win should be for our family. No, they're not wrong, they're not bad. We're not telling other families what to do or how to spend their time but for this season, because we want to win with our kids, no for now but not forever.

And here's the thing and you know this. You will find it so much easier to say no to you when you know what the win is. And until you know what the win is, you will find no compelling reason to say no to you. There's just not the urgency. Now, almost done. At the risk of being a little bit overdramatic, okay, you only get one season. You only get to be in your 20s one time. You don't get to come back next fall and do your 20s again. You only get to do your 30s one time. You only get one first marriage. You only get to raise each of those kids one time and the clock is running. And you have to decide. You have to decide what life is gonna look like for you and what you want the win to be. And if you don't decide, life and culture and the people around you are going to decide for you.

And remember this, and you know this, remember though. When you win, when you win in the arenas of life that matter most, you're not the only person that wins. The people closest to you win as well and when you lose, they lose as well. Now if you're not a Christian or not a Jesus follower, I hope this has been helpful. I hope this has been inspiring. I hope that you'll go home and come up with some wins and you can because, again, this isn't a Christian thing. This is just a thing thing. We just found a model or an example in the New Testament. But if you're a Christian, if you're a Jesus follower like me, you're someone who said, I have decided to follow Jesus. I don't get it perfect. Sometimes it kinda looks like this but I'm doing my best to follow Jesus, this isn't just meant to be inspiring. This isn't optional because we have something in common with the Apostle Paul, right? He said, Everyone who competes, everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it for a crown that will not last. But if Jesus was correct and I think He was.

I mean, remember, if someone predicts their own death and resurrection and pulls it off, you just go with whatever that person says, okay? So if Jesus was correct, if Jesus was correct, our lives and this is good news, this is an invitation. If Jesus was correct, our lives are not bookended by a birth certificate and a death certificate. There's more to this life. There's more to life. If Paul was correct, and Paul lived his life as if he believed there was life beyond this life, then there's so much at stake for us.

So to leverage Paul's words as we close, I just want to say this to those of you who are Jesus followers and I'm saying it to myself as well. When it comes to the areas of life that matter most, and you know what those are, don't run like somebody running aimlessly anymore. Decide what is the win. Don't fight like a boxer who's just swinging their arms in the air. Decide what the win is and order your life accordingly. And make your body your slave. And in doing so, let your life, your parenting, your money, your profession, your relationships, your dating, your marriage, your all of it, let your life, let your light shine in such a way that people would catch a glimpse of your Father in heaven, because at the end of the day, that's a win. At the end of the day, that kind of Christian living changed the world once. But in the meantime, for all of us, what's the win? What's the win? What's the win? After all, winning is better than not winning.
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